State Department reviewing options for possible recognition of Palestinian state

Axios reported that Secretary of State Tony Blinken had asked the State Department for a review of possible U.S. recognition and international recognition of the Palestinian state following the Gaza war.

Why it matters: Although U.S. officials claim that there is no change in policy, the fact that the State Department even considers such options indicates a shift of thinking within the Biden Administration on the possibility of Palestinian statehood recognition. This is a highly sensitive issue both internationally and domestically.

Since the 1960s, the U.S. has opposed the recognition of Palestine in UN and bilateral institutions. It also stresses that the only way to achieve Palestinian statehood is through direct negotiations with Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

A senior U.S. government official stated that yes, but: The efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Gaza have opened the door for a rethinking of many old U.S. paradigms.

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As part of its postwar strategy, the Biden administration is tying possible normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia with the creation of a path for the establishment a Palestinian State. This initiative is based upon the administration’s efforts to negotiate a mega deal with Saudi Arabia prior to October 7, which included a peace accord between the kingdom of Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi officials have made it clear, both publicly and privately, since October 7 that any possible normalization agreement with Israel will be conditional on the creation an “irrevocable pathway” towards a Palestinian State.

The senior U.S. government official revealed that some Biden administration officials now believe the recognition of a Palestinian State should be the first step of negotiations to solve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, instead of being the last.

The United States has several options to consider on this issue.

Recognizing the state of Palestine bilaterally.

It did not use its veto in order to prevent the UN Security Council admitting Palestine as an official UN member.

Encourage other countries to recognise Palestine.

State of the play: U.S. officials stated that the State Department was asked by Blinken to review the options for the recognition of the Palestinian state.

Blinken asked that a review be done of how a demilitarized Palestinian State would look based on models used around the globe, according to the two U.S. official.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has proposed this idea several times between 2009-2015. However, he hasn’t mentioned it in recent years.

A U.S. official stated that the purpose of this review was to examine options on how a two state solution could be implemented while ensuring Israel’s security.

What they are saying: A U.S. official confirmed that the White House knows about the two reviews.

The official said Blinken had not signed off on a new policy, and that the State Department was in the process of putting together a large menu of options.

White House National Security Council spokeswoman said that it has been “longstanding U.S. Policy” that any recognition of the Palestinian state would come from direct negotiations between parties, rather than unilateral recognition by the UN. This policy has not been changed.

The State Department declined comment.

Flashback: Under the Obama administration, the State Department did examine the issue of the recognition of a Palestinian State. This was after the Palestinian Authority requested recognition as a member state of the UN in 2011.

According to an official who was briefed about the paper, at the time the State Department had prepared a significant paper on the subject, but the option wasn’t considered serious within the administration.

In 2012, the UN General Assembly recognized Palestine as an observer but not as a full member.

Zoom out. British Foreign Minister David Cameron stated on Monday that the U.K. was considering the recognition of Palestine in its plans for a day after the Gaza war and to provide a political horizon for the Palestinians.

He said: “We, along with our allies, will examine the issue of recognising a Palestinian State at the United Nations… this could be one thing that makes this process irreversible.”

Reality check: Netanyahu has been a long-time opponent of the two-state solution. He has rejected recent calls for Palestinian autonomy, and Israel has been vehemently opposed to any recognition of a Palestinian State by individual countries or in the UN.

Ultranationalists are part of Netanyahu’s cabinet and they oppose any concessions to the Palestinians. Officials from the United States have said that it is unlikely that they would agree to a path towards a future Palestinian State.

What to watch for: Blinken will meet with Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Gaza and plans for the next day. They may also discuss normalization with Saudi Arabia.

A U.S. official reported that Dermer and White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met on Wednesday morning for a similar conversation.